Monday, May 27, 2013

Justen Ortiz Does Japan

A few weeks ago I was given notice that I would embark on a six week adventure through Asia. I’ll be visiting several countries to spread the stoke of skating and check out the local scene in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

My first stop is Japan. I met a few friends in the USA that were from Japan so as soon as I heard about this trip I got in touch with them and let them know I would be visiting. I arrived at the airport and was excited to see some familiar faces in a foreign land. Returning to their house, I headed straight to bed and slept for about 15 hours straight to recover from the jet lag.

We woke up that morning and had a solid breakfast before heading out to go meet up with some other longboarders for a skate sesh. The hill we were heading to was about two hours away along a scenic oceanside road. Checking out the Japanese landscape was amazing! We drove through a bunch of Japanese surf towns that had a really cool 70’s vibe, and I noticed many a skate spot as we drove by. I knew if I saw so many awesome skate spots on the trip up that our road would be out of this world! When we showed up to the spot, I saw it was a dirty mountain road with hairpins all the way up and a gate at the bottom to close car access. The locals have been cleaning it with brooms as much as they can, and they had a pretty large section of it cleaned up that we were able to skate. One thing I noticed was all the skaters here seem to be older than what I am used to in North America. Everyone is in their 20’s and 30’s, and are really good as well.

The next day I met up with Yoshi who was the owner of a Funwaves Skateshop. He has a really cool little shop and it was the only skate shop I have ever seen where you have to take off your shoes and put slippers on to come inside. We waited for a few other riders to show up then we headed off to a local hill to warm up. After a quick lunch break with some authentic Japanese food we headed to a nearby ditch where they like to hang out and skate. This was a perfect spot to test out the 2013 Landyachtz Dinghy. The new shape is perfect for an afternoon ditch jam with friends!

After we were done we met up with some more of Yoshi’s friends and got some authentic Japanese food:  pork intestines, stomach, liver and heart. I told myself at the start of this trip that I wanted to try as much traditional and crazy food as I can just to gain that experience and say I’ve done it. Some of it was good and some of it I couldn’t handle but it was a really cool experience none the less.

After another good night of sleep we were ready for the big skate jam on Sunday. People from all over came out and we had about 20-30 people show up. We spent a few hours on a cool hill that was closed off to traffic. After we were all tired and sunburnt, we headed over to the beach to have a big bbq with everyone and relax.

The next day was pretty rainy out so we decided to head into Tokyo to go sightseeing and check out the downtown area. After a long train ride and a good nap we finally made it to our stop, where we spent about an hour or so checking out a Japanese shrine. Following that, we checked out Harujuku, the fashion district of Japan to go shopping. There were some pretty unique looking people and interesting characters there. Some more local cuisine was downed for lunch, and we headed to Shibuya. Shibuya is the area most people see in a lot of movies featuring Japan, it is the times square of Japan, and with people everywhere crossing in every direction it was pretty chaotic! After a good day of sightseeing we finally headed back for some sleep.

My last day in Japan took me to a Japanese theme park which is home to some of the gnarliest rollercoasters I have ever seen in my life. A lot of these roller coasters held world records like tallest, fastest, and steepest roller coaster. It was a pretty rad experience, and before the day was over we headed to a nearby skate spot to meet up with some friends to enjoy the last few hours of sun. This spot we went to was one of the craziest roads I have seen. Apparently it was a pretty new, and recently discovered spot. The sessioned road was super steep and featured brand new pavement down a very narrow road through the forest; super fast but you are able to grip almost every corner for almost 13 km! With the skate sesh finished, we had one final goodbye dinner with every one before I had to catch my flight the next morning for Korea.

 I was pretty sad to leave Japan but at the same time this is only the start of a really long trip and I have a lot more countries to visit.

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